POSTED: December 07 2020
Supporting an employee through domestic abuse

Supporting an employee through domestic abuse

For many, spending quality time with family and friends is a key part of the Christmas season. But for some this is not something to look forward to as it means spending more time with those who make their lives miserable. 

Over 2 million people reported that they experienced domestic abuse in the last year alone and the Christmas period has historically seen a rise in the cases of domestic abuse. However, the impact of the pandemic on those facing domestic abuse was evident almost immediately during the national lockdown in March. Statistics obtained from UK police forces revealed that there was one domestic abuse call every 30 seconds in the first seven weeks of the first lockdown and calls to domestic abuse support organisations rose by 48%.

Women are most likely to experience domestic abuse, but men also experience it and domestic abuse also occurs in same-sex relationships.

The workplace can often be one of the few places that a person experiencing abuse can be separate from their abuser but as more people are now working from home the Equality and Human Rights Commission, CIPD and domestic abuse organisations have released in depth guidance. This guidance urges employers to become knowledgeable about domestic abuse as they are ideally placed to offer key support to those experiencing it. Indeed, some large companies have domestic abuse policies in place.

An empathetic, non-judgemental approach and flexibility are two key areas employers are advised to focus on. Being a good employer includes supporting staff through new or difficult periods in their lives so it is important that managers know how to spot the signs of domestic abuse.  Some of the signs are:

  • Sudden changes in behaviour and/or changes in the quality of work performance for unexplained reasons despite a previously strong record;
  • Changes in the way an employee dresses, e.g. excessive clothing on hot days, changes in the amount of make-up worn. This is obviously not as easy to do with remote working but could be picked up in video meeting;
  • The words used. Some employees might not think they are experiencing domestic abuse, but may not use these words to describe their experiences. However, they might talk about behaviour from their partner that is violent, abusive or coercively controlling.

If working remotely, employees may be very anxious and very eager to return to the safety of their workplace.

If employers are concerned, there are open questions that may be asked, e.g. How are you doing at the moment? How are things at home? Are there any issues you’d like to discuss with me?

If an employee does disclose to you that they are suffering domestic abuse, be non-judgemental and show empathy and compassion .

There are numerous ways in which employers may support employees, for example:

  • Ask the employee about the best way to keep in contact with them, for example which communication methods are private and which they have easy access to;
  • Check in frequently with employees so that they can raise any concerns or worries;
  • Ask the employee about what support they need and regularly check in with that question, as the support they need may change over time as the individual’s circumstances change;
  • Signpost affected employees to professional support, e.g. an Employee Assistance Programme, as afore mentioned in this newsletter, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline and other professional services;
  • Offer flexibility to enable employees to attend counselling, legal and finance appointments, and making arrangements concerning childcare, housing etc.

Where possible, the employer should respect the wishes of the employee if they want the information to remain confidential. However, confidentiality is a complex matter and there may be circumstances in which confidentiality cannot be assured as the employer may feel they should take action because the risk of not taking action is so significant. In such circumstances, we would recommend that you seek prior advice from advo hr.

We appreciate that domestic abuse is an extremely difficult and sensitive employee matter and advo hr are always available to provide you with further guidance and support.


advo is an Investors-in-People Gold employer